1 January: Radio Moscow broadcasts a speech by US President Ronald Reagan to the Soviet people in which he affirms his desire for further steps towards disarmament. In Beijing, some 1,000 demonstrators march from the university to Tiananmen Square in support of democracy and press freedom. West Germany takes a seat on the UN Security Council.
4 January: At a national meeting of the CDU in Dortmund, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl calls the GDR a "regime that keeps political prisoners in jails and concentration camps." The Permanent Representative of the GDR in West Germany lodges an official protest.
18 January: West German public-service broadcasters ARD/ZDF and GDR television sign production and cooperation agreements.
25 January: At elections for the 11th German Bundestag, the CDU/CSU receive 44.3% of votes, the SPD 37%, FDP 9.1% and the Greens 8.3 %.
28 January: The SED’s central mouthpiece, "Neues Deutschland", publishes only excerpts from a speech by the Soviet party and state leader Mikhail Gorbachev on the "restructuring and cadre policies of the party". The passages in which Gorbachev expresses clear criticism of his predecessors in office are left out.
3-5 February: The Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze meets with SED leader Erich Honecker in East Berlin.
5 February: The surprise announcement is made that Markus Wolf, the GDR head of the foreign intelligence service and Mielke’s deputy, is leaving the Ministry for State Security at his own wish.
12 February: The 24-year-old Lutz Schmidt is shot dead on the Berlin sector border while trying to escape. The GDR State Security compels his wife to stay quiet about the true circumstances of her husband’s death and to pass off his death as the result of a car accident.
23 February: As part of the cultural liberalisation of the Soviet Union, the Nobel Literature Prize laureate Boris Pasternak ("Doctor Zhivago") is posthumously accepted back into the Writer’s Federation of the USSR.
25 March: For the first, time, two officers from the West German Bundeswehr take part in a manoeuvre of the National People’s Army and the Red Army as observers.
3 April: SED leader Honecker repeats his proposal for a nuclear-free corridor in Central Europe.
9 April: In an interview with the West German news magazine "Stern", the SED’s chief ideologue, Kurt Hager, dissociates himself from Gorbachev’s reform policies with a rhetorical question. "Would you feel obliged to put up new wallpaper in your apartment if your neighbour were to wallpaper his?"
13 April: SED leader Erich Honecker rejects an invitation from the Ruling Mayor of Berlin, Eberhard Diepgen, to come to the Western part of the city for the celebrations marking the 750th anniversary of the founding of Berlin. In response, Diepgen cancels a meeting with mayors in East Berlin.
30 April-4 May: Pope John Paul II visits West Germany.
28 May: Spectacular landing by West German amateur pilot Matthias Rust in a Cessna in Moscow’s Red Square. He has been able to fly from Finland through 800 kilometres of Soviet airspace without hindrance. Defence Minister Sergei Sokolov is pensioned off, and the head of air defence, Alexander Koldunov, is removed from his position. Rust is sentenced on 4 September to four years in a labour camp, but is pardoned in August 1988.
On 4 June, the Soviet party and state leader Mikhail Gorbachev feels obliged to inform SED leader Erich Honecker about the failure of the Soviet air defence system. He says that air defence departments had "shown elementary carelessness, rigidity and a lack of organisation in this situation." Remorsefully, Gorbachev goes on: "Cooperation between the troops did not function (…), what is more, the heads of the central command and control did not find it necessary to alarm the strong air defence system for the direct security of Moscow." He sees the "decisive reason for the incident" as being the "lack of appropriate alertness and discipline, the violation of the relevant regulations in troop leadership, and the insufficient responsibility taken by a number of officers and generals."
29-30 May: Meeting of party leaders from the Warsaw Pact states in East Berlin. For the first time, a statement on the military doctrine of the Warsaw Pact is issued, which publicly declares that the military alliance is solely defensive in nature. The Soviet party and state leader Mikhail Gorbachev intends it to underline the fact that his disarmament policies are meant seriously.
4 June: In a government statement, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl speaks out in favour of a "double-zero option" for the removal of medium-range missiles in Europe.
6-8 June: During a rock concert in front of the Reichstag, there are severe clashes between several thousand young people and the People’s Police near the border installations on the East German side. There are calls of "Gorbachev" and "Down with the Wall".
8 June: Pope John Paul II travels to his homeland of Poland, where he meets not only with state leader Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski but also with the leader of the banned union "Solidarity", Lech Walesa.
12 June: During the 750-year celebrations in West Berlin, US President Ronald Reagan says in a speech at the Brandenburg Gate: "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalisation, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
13 June: In the "Hofgarten" park in Bonn, more than 100,000 people demonstrate for peace and disarmament. They also call on the West German government to agree to the "zero option", the removal of all medium-range missiles in Europe.
13-16 June: UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar visits the GDR.
19 June: As the resolution of the previous year to considerably reduce the GDR’s debts in the West by 1990 seems unattainable, the SED Politburo decides to extend the time for halving Western debt to five years, i.e. to 1995.
24-28 June: For the first time since 1961, a Protestant Church Congress takes place in East Berlin.
1 July: The GDR reduces the amount of DM that GDR citizens can exchange during trips to the West. Instead of 70 DM, they can now exchange a maximum of 15 DM. West German politicians protest at the move, pointing to the profits from the GDR’s hard-currency receipts.
6-11 July: State visit by West German President Richard von Weizsäcker to the Soviet Union.
10-12 July: First Catholic Congress in the GDR takes place in Dresden with some 100,000 faithful.
14 July: Within just one week, more than 1,400 German migrants from Eastern Europe are registered in the Friedland border transit camp, the highest number in years.
17 July: The GDR government decides to abolish the death penalty.
22 July: The Soviet party and state leader Mikhail Gorbachev appeals for a global "double-zero option".
29 July: Sentences of two to ten years in a labour camp are handed down to six people responsible for the reactor catastrophe in Chernobyl in 1986.
7 August: SED leader Erich Honecker talks with CPSU Politburo member Alexander Yakovlev about the situation in West Germany after Bundestag elections there, questions of disarmament and his upcoming visit to West Germany.
13 August: On the anniversary of the Wall’s construction, some 300 people demonstrate against the Wall on the Eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate. There are no clashes with security forces, but there are some arrests.
17 August: The former deputy of Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, dies aged 93 in a British military hospital in West Berlin.
26 August: After the GDR on July 1 orders a reduction in the graduated exchange of DM by GDR citizens travelling to the West, the West German government decides to compensate by raising the "Begrüssungsgeld" ("welcome money") for visitors from the GDR from 30 DM twice a year to 100 DM once a year per visitor per year.
27 August: SED and SPD jointly publish an article entitled "The Clash of Ideologies and Joint Security" ("Der Streit der Ideologien und die gemeinsame Sicherheit"). It elaborates ideas for long-term cooperation against the backdrop of the ideological differences between social democrats and communists. The SPD attests that the SED is capable of reform.
5 September: Independent peace groups demonstrate in East Berlin against nuclear weapons in East and West. The state law enforcement officers react in a fairly restrained manner in view of the upcoming visit by Honecker to West Germany.
7-11 September: Party and state leader Erich Honecker visits West Germany and is received with all honours due to a head of state. It is the first visit by a GDR head of state to West Germany. Various agreements are signed on environmental protection, radiation protection and scientific and technological cooperation. Honecker then also visits the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Bavaria.
A report by the State Security on the mood among the GDR population after Honecker’s visit makes plain the SED and Stasi’s concern that the visit could lead to an undesirable "softening" of firm ideological principles. Many GDR citizens, even "progressive forces", expect concessions on humanitarian issues, above with regard to travel.
The paper expresses the growing uncertainty of the surveillance apparatus about how to deal with the problems of travel and emigration in the future.
27 September: US Vice President George Bush visits Poland, meeting with both state leader Jaruzelski and the leader of the banned union "Solidarity", Lech Walesa. The trip aims to improve ties between the two countries after sanctions have been relaxed.
19 October: Drastic fall in prices on the international stock exchanges.
23 October: Official state ceremony in the GDR for the 750th anniversary of Berlin’s founding.
30 October: The two German states exchange more than 400 works of art that were evacuated during the Second World War.
9 November: As part of the cultural agreement, the two German states arrange intensive cultural cooperation on some 100 projects for the years 1988 and 1989.
17 November: The SED Politburo discusses a prognosis by the Planning Commission that predicts a rise of three million in the GDR’s Western debt in 1988, despite all plans to lower it; however, it says, this increase in debt can no longer be financed. "This is not the way to manage money," Honecker scolds. "It is irresponsible towards our Republic and completely incomprehensible." Defence Minister Kessler does not understand his own comrades any more either. On 17 November 1987, he remarks with military terseness in the Politburo: "If it is true" that things are considered incontrollable, "we would have to stop."
25 November: After the GDR State Security searches rooms in the Environmental Library of Berlin’s Zion Church, several staff members of the library are arrested. In the days that follow, vigils and church services are held to show solidarity. Those arrested are released.
11 December: Meeting between leading representatives of the Warsaw Pact states in East Berlin. The Soviet party and state leader Gorbachev reports on the INF negotiations in Vienna.
8-10 December: Summit between US President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet state and party leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Washington. The treaty on the abolition of medium-range missiles (INF) is signed. According to the terms of the treaty, all nuclear-capable medium-range missiles with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometres have to be dismantled within the next three years (after the treaty comes into force on 1 June 1988).
Among others, the American Pershing II and the Soviet SS-20 missiles are affected by the treaty. Further serious steps towards disarmament, above all in the area of long-range offensive weapons, are to be made. Gorbachev also announces his willingness to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan; the USA promises a quick ratification of the INF treaty if Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan.
9 December: Manfred Wörner (CDU) is appointed as the new NATO Secretary-General (from 1 June 1988).
12 December: As part of an amnesty for the 38th anniversary of the GDR, altogether 24,621 prisoners have been released from prison this year.